MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon and Northridge high school baseball teams squared off to open the 2009 season on Monday at Yellow Jacket Field. The Yellow Jackets, behind the pitching of senior Ben Severns, rolled to an opening victory, defeating the Vikings, 10-1.
Severns pitched like an ace, allowing just three hits and one earned run over six innings. He walked none and struck out seven. The Jackets’ offense did the rest.
“The offensive support was big,” said Severns. “We were able to come out and prove that we were the better team in this game. Pitching felt good, and my defense was working well behind me, making plays.”
“It all started around Ben,” said Mount Vernon coach Doug Savage. “He pitched a solid game for us. He threw strikes, and actually had a perfect game going for quite a while. Defensively, we made some nice plays. Dylan Shuman had a nice game at shortstop; we pretty much played error-free baseball. Offensively, against a pretty good pitcher, we were able to put some runs up. All-in-all, it was a good first day.”
Mount Vernon (1-0) scored in five of the six innings it batted, including twice in the first and three times in the second and sixth. Robert Kane led the way with two hits in three at-bats, scored three times and drove in three. Justin Edwards went 2-for-2 with three runs scored, including the Jackets’ first home run in three seasons in the third inning.
“We took a ton of swings in the preseason,” said Kane. “We started in the gym in late January and it really rolled over today. ... This was a good day — 10 runs, especially with only giving up one. That kind of effort is going to win 95 percent of our games.”
Northridge (0-1) starter Sean Haines fell victim to a faulty defense in the early going, and that cost him in the long run. Back-to-back errors allowed Kane and Brian Hoar to reach in the first inning, and after a walk loaded the bases with two out, Ty Benson came through for Mount Vernon. Benson hit a 2-2 pitch back up the middle to drive in Kane and Hoar.
Then, in the bottom of the second, a leadoff walk to Edwards and another error put two on with no outs. Haines struck out Russell Doup for the second time before Kane drilled a 2-1 pitch down the left-field line, scoring both base runners. Kane later scored on a wild pitch after a single by Hoar moved him to third.
“I was frustrated,” said Northridge coach Chris Hatten. “We made four errors. Other than that, we just weren’t hitting the ball. If we can’t hit, we are not going to be able to score. The hitting is very frustrating right now. Overall, I thought we held our own. That’s a good team, Mount Vernon.”
Single runs off big hits in the third and fourth innings — Edwards’ home run and a triple by Kane — left Haines in a 7-0 hole and chased him from the game. Only four of the runs were earned, and he struck out six.
“It was nice (to score early) because last year it took a lot for us to get going,” Kane said. “We would score a couple of runs here and there, but it seemed like it was never enough. Today, we kept pouring it on, so that was nice.”
Ryan King relieved Haines and got through the fifth without any damage being done. King set down the side in order, and then helped Northridge get on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth.
Cody King singled to right off Severns to start the inning, but after back-to-back strikeouts, Mount Vernon looked to escape without any damage being done. Ryan King came up big, however, hitting a double to left-center, plating Cody King.
His gripped quickly slipped away in the bottom of the sixth. A leadoff single by Edwards and another Viking error opened the floodgates, allowing three runs to score. Derek Baker, Kane and Luke Wilson each drove in a run in the inning, and finished off Northridge.
“I was limited to one relief pitcher today because we didn’t have any other infielders,” said Hatten. “There are three infielders out right now, and that limited my pitching options to one kid. He came in and did a nice job, but it is frustrating.”
Luke Wilson pitched the seven inning for Mount Vernon. Wilson allowed a leadoff single, but then got the next three batters out in order to preserve the 10-1 victory.
“We’ve got a little more pop this year in our lineup, a little more strength overall,” said Savage. “Justin Edwards hit the ball hard, and hit our first home run in three years. That was good. ... For no more than we’ve been outside, we did a pretty nice job offensively.”
With such a strong start, the Jackets could be looking at a successful season. In the end, however, it will come down to the Jackets’ pitching staff and how they perform.
“Our pitching staff, starting with Ben, has gotten a lot of experience, and that is something you can’t replace,” said Savage. “Once you get experience, you gain poise and confidence. I think with Ben, Robert and Russell and maybe Luke, they got a lot of innings for us last year, and should go out there with a lot of confidence this year. That’s what we are hoping for.”
Hatten knows this was only Game 1. He expects his team to get better as players return from injury and younger players gain experience.
“We came out a little flat, maybe a little intimidated, and we made some errors,” Hatten said. “If we didn’t make those errors, it is a 5-1 game, which isn’t bad against a team like that. I’m looking forward to our season. I think we will have a good year once we get everyone back.”
Northridge plays at Columbus Academy today, while Mount Vernon is back in action, traveling to Licking Valley. Both games start at 5 p.m.
“We’ve got four more games this week and this game was definitely a jumpstart for those,” said Severns. “Winning 10-1 gives us a lot of confidence going into (today) against a team we lost to, 9-7 I think, in a scrimmage earlier last week. I think we can pull it out and, hopefully, continue our success for a couple of weeks.”